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NC Legislative Update: February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017

This Week

Governor Cooper (D) held a budget press conference on Monday to unveil some of the highlights that his budget proposal will include. One of the most discussed highlights is raising the average teacher pay to $55,000 by 2018. That proposal runs parallel to a previous proposal from the Senate, which will initiate the budget in the legislature. Another provision from Cooper’s proposal would provide teachers with an additional $150 stipend at the beginning of the school year to help with classroom supplies. Cooper is expected to unveil his entire budget proposal on March 1st. 
Cooper outlines plan to raise NC teacher pay to national average – WRAL 
Cooper teacher pay plan gets skeptical reception at NCGA – Carolina Journal

The House passed their permanent Rules for the conduct of business in House Bill 114. Among other provisions, the rules created two new Committees, the Health Reform Committee and a Committee to address nominations to the UNC Board of Governors. The House also passed House Bill 100, Restore Partisan Elections/Sup. & Dist. Court, sponsored by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly). The bill would return partisan labels next to the names of judicial candidates for Superior Court and District Court. 
NC House backs political party labels for local judicial races – N&O

The Senate gave its final approval to House Bill 39, entitled Amend Appointments/UNC Bd of Governors, reducing the number of members on the UNC System Board of Governors. The Board which currently has 32 members, would be reduced to 24 members under the proposed change, with 8 seats dissolving after the expiration of their terms. The legislature appoints the membership of the UNC Board of Governors. The bill has been sent to the Governor, who has 10 days to act on the legislation before it becomes law without his signature. 
Senate moves to downsize UNC Board of Governors – N&O 
General Assembly sends first 2017 bill to governor – NSJ

After a three-judge panel rejected Gov. Cooper’s request to block the Senate’s confirmation of the Governor’s Cabinet Secretaries, the Senate revised its schedule to proceed with the hearings. The Senate Commerce & Insurance Committee scheduled two meetings this week to begin the confirmation process for Secretary Larry Hall of the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, neither of which he attended. Sec. Hall did not attend one hearing prior to this week as well as the second hearing on Wednesday. Senate leaders threatened to subpoena Hall if he did not attend a third hearing scheduled for yesterday. After Hall did not appear before the Committee for the third time, the Committee issued the subpoena, summoning him to a meeting next week. Gov. Cooper, argues the Committee hearings are premature and that he is not required to officially submit his nominees to the Senate until May 15th. Gov. Cooper’s announced Secretaries have been sworn in to their offices and are serving in their official capacities. Cooper is likely to challenge the subpoena. 
Senate votes to subpoena Cabinet secretary Hall – N&O 
Senate issues subpoena compelling Hall to attend confirmation hearing – Carolina Journal

In total 83 bills were filed this week, with 62 in the House and 21 in the Senate, bringing the total number of bills filed so far this session to 329. A link to next week’s Committee calendar, which is going to be very busy, can be found here. A cumulative list of House and Senate bills filed so far this year, links to each bill, and its current status can be found here.

Legislation in the News: 
Howls of protest call driving-with-pets bill to heel – WRAL 
Bill proposes dissolving Franklin County town – N&O 
Bill would lower mandatory school attendance age from 7 to 6 – WRAL 
‘We can do more’: House bill would let taxpayers donate their return to cancer screenings – N&O 
Medical marijuana gets another look from NC legislature – N&O 
This drone crashed inside a prison. Under new bill, pilot could wind up there, too. – N&O

House Bill 2

A bipartisan effort to repeal most of House Bill 2, also known as the “bathroom bill” has surfaced in the House. House Bill 186, Repeal HB2/State Nondiscrimination Policies, filed by Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), is being touted as a proposed compromise to repeal the law, while enacting additional provisions dealing with bathrooms. Opposition to the bill, which currently has fourteen Republicans and five Democrats sponsoring or cosponsoring the bill, has drawn some unlikely allies. Equality NC, a group that advocates for LGBTQ issues, and the NC Values Coalition, a Christian conservative advocacy group, have both denounced the proposal. Gov. Cooper also expressed opposition. However, several groups have also endorsed the bill, including the NC Chamber of Commerce, the NC Realtors Association, and the NC Restaurant & Lodging Association. Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) would not comment on the proposal, noting that the Senate will address the legislation if it passes the House. Among the provisions, the bill:

  • Repeals House Bill 2 
  • Clarifies that the regulation of access to multiple occupancy bathrooms, showers, and changing facilities is under the jurisdiction of the State except facilities directly owned or controlled by municipalities 
  • Adds employment discrimination protections for employers with fifteen or more employees to include: race, sex, national origin, citizenship, religion, age, veteran status, genetic information, pregnancy, handicap, or disability (currently limited to race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap) 
  • Prohibits discrimination based on citizenship, disability, genetic information, pregnancy, or veteran status in housing practices and the State Fair Housing Act 
  • Allows a city government to enact additional nondiscrimination policies after providing 30 days of public notice with the text of the proposed ordinance which would become effective 90 days after adoption. However, if a petition to override the ordinance is presented to the governing body with at least 10% of the registered voters who cast votes in the most recent municipal election, the ordinance will be placed on the ballot for referendum for the next municipal or general election. 
  • Prohibits a local nondiscrimination ordinance from: applying to the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction or a State or county entity; modifying the restrictions on city contracts; regulating access to multiple occupancy bathrooms, showers, and changing facilities except facilities directly owned or controlled by the city; applying to a charitable organization or a religious institution; being construed to prevent a city from establishing nondiscrimination policies for its own employees.

House Republicans introduce new bill addressing HB2; not full repeal – WBTV 
Here’s who’s supporting and opposing the new HB2 compromise bill – N&O 
Charlotte business groups lining up behind bipartisan HB2 repeal bill – Charlotte Observer

In Other News

On Monday evening, the NC House will honor former Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham) with House Joint Resolution 75. Luebke, who served in the chamber for 25 years, passed away late last year after a battle with cancer.

Gov. Cooper is clearing house on the NC Board of Transportation, appointing ten new members to replace McCrory appointees whose terms are expiring. Seven McCrory appointees will remain on the board until their terms expire in 2019. The Board oversees the Highway Trust Fund and transportation matters generally. 
Cooper appoints 10 new Board of Transportation members, replacing McCrory appointees – N&O

In the News

Top N.C. Democrats want Supreme Court to drop voting law review – CBS News
Question lingers: Who has power over NC public schools? – WRAL
New N Carolina Democratic leader talks rural vote, diversity – AP
NC’s Tillis and Rouzer tour Mexican border in Texas – N&O
Cass Ballenger, House Republican from North Carolina, dies at 88 – Washington Post
State suspends training program as hiring stalls at Vertex – WECT
N.C. rolling out new Residency Determination Service for students – Courier-Tribune
CEOs highlight pre-kindergarten as linchpin of reading, and jobs – Herald-Sun
Before leaving office, McCrory protected 908 state jobs from political firings – N&O
Grants Available For Agricultural Projects – Daily Record
Local leaders refused to entice Walmart with tax incentives. They came anyway. – Charlotte Observer

The Nexsen Pruet Public Policy team provides attorneys and clients with a newsletter summarizing the week's activities and conveying the inner workings of the legislative process and state government in Raleigh. Please feel free to pass this along to your clients or other interested parties, email to be added to the list.